The Armenian Genocide — Part II
“Who after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
—– Adolf Hitler, August 22, 1939
However, vicious, the statement may be, Hitler is right. On April 2009, American president Obama took his first overseas trip to Turkey. Armenians in United States and all over the world watched in hopes that a US president would officially acknowledge the systematic slaughter. He said, “History is often tragic, but unresolved, can be a heavy weight. Each country must work through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future.” He abstained from using the word “genocide.” May be Turkey, is an important ally in Middle East and it’s a huge risk for US to fall out of its grace. The Turkish government still states that the deaths of Armenians during ‘relocation’ cannot be labeled as ‘genocide.’
“The resettlement or relocation” program was a fictitious one, or maybe they thought massacres as relocation (from earth). Whatever the official term is, in the spring and summer of 1915, Armenians (woman, children and elderly people) all around the Ottoman Empire were deported towards the Syrian Desert. Their properties were confiscated and the men are shot outside towns and villages. At this time, 40,000 Armenians served in Turkish Army. Their weapons were confiscate immediately and they traveled to meet their death in crammed cattle trucks. The death march to Syrian concentration camp consumed many woman and children. Abominable abuses were leashed out on young woman. The Euphrates and Tigris rivers flowed with the corpses of Armenian women and children.
“Special Organization” is a special mobile unit created by the Empire. The unit consists of ruthless criminals. Their job is to raid Armenian’ homes, kill the men, and to kidnap young girls for the Turkish harems. Many Armenian girls lived in enforced prostitution until the mid-1920. At first, the Turks gave the option of converting to Islam or deportation. But, when large numbers of Armenians chose the conversion, they abruptly ended the choice. Even, those (Armenians) who successfully converted and survived were stripped of their cultural identities and forced into marriages.
Foreign diplomats, journalists and missionaries documented the events in an efficient manner (New York Times published 145 articles in 1915 that spoke of race extermination of Armenians) and it created outrage against the Turks in the west, but they remained powerless to act. Although, Germany was an ally of Turkey (in World War I), many documents surfaced from German diplomats expressing horror.
By 1918, most of the Armenians who resided in Turkey were either dead or dispersed. Most of the killings stopped at the end of World War I, but the violence against Armenians continued up to 1923. Under the orders of Turkey’s new leader, Mustafa Kemal, the remaining Armenians along with Greeks and Assyrians were expelled from the historic land. By 1923, half of the subjects of a 3,000 year old civilization were annihilated.
The term “Genocide” was not created until 1944. Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer, who deeply studied the Armenian massacre, coined the term to fit the persecution of Jews under Nazis. Many governments, academic institutions and majority of historians affirm the ‘Armenian Genocide.’ However, some historians still believe that the events do not fit the description of ‘genocide.’ They do not feel that there is enough evidence to say that it was planned in-advance. In 2004, the Turkish government passed a law (Article 305). According to this law, it is a criminal offense, in Turkey, to discuss the Armenian genocide (punishable up to 10 years in prison).
Hitler’s quest for pure race resulted in the extermination of six million Jew (1938-45); Stalin’s ideological genocide killed seven million Ukrainians; Khmer Rouge’s attempt to form Communist peasant farming cost the lives of 2 million Cambodians; Eight-hundred thousand Tutsi and Hutu people in Rwanda were slaughtered hacked to death with machete in a span of 3 months; 200, 000 Muslims were killed by the Serbs between 1992-1995; More than 40,000 Tamil civilians were systematically killed in by Sri Lankan Government in 2008-09. These massacres occurred at different times and places, but they share a common characteristic: systematic destruction of people, just because they belonged to a particular group. It’s been nearly 100 years since the Armenian genocide, but we are still inquiring that, “Should democratic governments step in affairs of other countries in order to prevent genocide or mass killings?”